by Rob Sawyer, with members of Everton FC Heritage Society
Members of Everton FC Heritage Society were saddened to learn of the death of Barry Hewitt on 12 November 2023 from cancer. He may have been Suffolk-born, but his devotion to the Toffees was absolute for more than half a century, and he was a great friend to the Society.
Barry was born in Ipswich on 19 May 1953. Always keen on football, he had been a talented goalkeeper in his youth – he represented Suffolk schools and had a trail at Ipswich Town but chose not to pursue it when invited back. He became an Everton fan as a teenager, worshipping the great Alex Young. He would get up early and catch the train from Ipswich to London, where he would link up with the London supporters group to travel up to Liverpool. When he moved to Colne, in East Lancashire, where he worked in social housing, he became a season ticket holder at Goodison Park, as well as a shareholder.
Barry kept meticulous statistical records and was an acknowledged authority on the club. He co-authored a book entitled ‘Toffee Cards – The Bubble Gum Years’ with Dr David France (founder of Everton FC Heritage Society) in 2005, and assisted David with many aspects of the organisation of eleven of the epic Gwladys Street’s Hall of Fame dinners. He was also involved with the Everton Former Players’ Foundation – relishing the opportunity to give something back, with the bonus of meeting some of his footballing heroes. On matchdays he’d be there supporting the Foundation at the stalls operated at St Luke’s.
David France’s wife, Elizabeth, noted: ‘I called him ‘Big Barry the Bailiff’. He was a gentle giant and a loyal friend for almost three decades. Barry showed boundless enthusiasm for anything and everything to do with Everton and helped with security and player coordination at the Hall of Fame celebrations. All of the old players respected him, especially Brian Labone and Fred Pickering. When my husband established the Everton FC Heritage Society, it was only right that Barry – along with George Orr and Brendan Connolly – was one of its first members. Vividly, I remember when we presented him with an Everton share at one of our many farewell parties at the Adelphi. For him, it was a dream come true – owning a piece of his beloved club . ‘Big Barry the Bailiff’ was a real gentleman – kind and appreciative.’
George Orr, who would sometimes go for a drink with Barry, or have him over at his home, recalls: ‘Barry the epitome of what being an Evertonian is about. He was passionate about Everton, in his quiet, knowledgeable way.’
In the early 2000s Barry would often collect former Blues striker Fred Pickering in Blackburn, and take him to matches at Goodison and Everton functions. In more recent years he became a greatly-valued matchday volunteer for the Society in St Luke’s church.
Latterly he was commuting to Goodison from Colne by train, doing programme sales by the church hall entrance in all weathers, in spite of his failing health. Ste Blease, who first got to know Barry when he was manning the Former Players’ Foundation at St Luke’s in the 2000s, reflects: ‘Barry was wise, clever and we always had a good chat about the game – he was a top gentleman. He didn’t ask for much, but he gave so much: time, effort, commitment, devotion and love. He was always there with smile until near the end, even though he was struggling – it was beyond heroic.’ Richie Gillham, the Society’s secretary, shared similar sentiments: ‘He was a “gentle man” who would give his support, both mentally and physically, even in his final year when clearly unwell, selling wares for the Society.’
Gaz Jones got to spend a precious time with Barry, selling programmes at St Luke’s before the pre-season fixture against Sporting CP in August 2023: ‘We sat trading stories of travelling long distances to see the Blues and how, in the 1970s, it was tough to support the Blues and not be a Scouser. He told me he could see my passion for the Toffees, which was kind of him. I wanted to ask him for a quick photo/selfie, but I didn’t feel it was appropriate as he wasn’t feeling the best that day. But I took this photo from our seat looking out of St Luke’s, as it was a nice moment for me, sat talking about the Blues, helping out at St Luke’s and the optimism of a new season. We were only talking for a couple of hours, but he left a lasting impression on me. A lovely bloke and a proper Blue’
Barry had wanted to be at the last game played at Goodison and the first at the new stadium on the waterfront, but it wasn’t to be. Hospitalised in Blackburn in late autumn, he passed away a few days after a enjoying a visit from Brendan Connolly, the former chair of the Heritage Society.
The Society sends its condolences to Barry’s family (his sisters and brother, nephews, grand niece and grand nephew) and friends. He will be greatly missed by all who volunteer at, and visit, St Luke’s on a matchday. We’ll leave the last words to George Orr: ‘The world of Evertonia is a sad place with this news, but it was wonderful to have known him and shared time with Barry.’